A couple of buddies of mine are long-term friends from before I knew either of them. They are both talented artists, designers and thinkers. One of them happens to also be Willow’s original rescuer.
One of the projects they are working on together has us excited about the possibilities it opens up for including a canine companion or partner in Search & Rescue, Law Enforcement, military and just plain enthusiastic yet protected fun. Both as a pure protective apparatus or as a light, comfortable video platform we can imagine the wide variety of uses these helmets can bring to the table.
Some early prototypes were crafted from hand laid fiberglass or carbon fiber but were sized and fitted for a friend of Willow’s, Charlie, who is a pit bull-type dog with a head shape that is substantially different from Willow’s. To broaden the range of dog head shapes that could be accommodated the OMDog Team (OM stands for Oregon Made) needed a variety of dogs to try prototypes on. Willow was happy to help out in any way she could. That meant sitting still and letting her Uncle Derek place a variety of mock-up and pre-production helmets on her head and try out different padding and strap configurations as she sat quietly.
You could tell that Willow could smell a bit of Chuck on the helmet as it was being placed on her head and she noticeably brightened at the thought.
After some initial testing it was decided that the lower edge of the lenses could make uncomfortable contact with the wearer’s face if the helmet received a blow at the top even after several rounds of nose bridge padding adjustments. The design decision was then made to have the lens be supported on the lower edge by the helmet itself. Here is Willow trying on a hand laid fiberglass prototype of the new design.
As soon as this prototype is finished it will be taken to a rapid prototype company, 3D scanned and corrected for symmetry and then will be able to be 3D (additive manufacturing) printed in a variety of sizes and materials.
UPDATE: Last minute changes mean many more hours of custom fabrication to fine tune this new generation.
After numerous prototypes we come to the point where things seem to be pretty well sorted out and it was time to lay some fiberglass to make molds.
Once the process gets to that point we expect to get one that fits Willow just right so she can go crashing through the forest chasing after whatever has caught her attention and we’ll get awesome videos of some wild critter’s rapidly departing backside all the while protecting my girl’s noggin and eyesight. Not as important a job as a professional working dog but still, it is her job and she does it with enthusiasm, joy and wild abandon to the point where I have seen (and heard) that scary “clonk” as her head contacts something hard at speed.
Interest has been shown by several police departments and SAR (Search & Rescue) groups and we wish OMDog the best of luck in their future endeavors.
For more pictures, videos and information you can check out the website at: k9helm.com.